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Before yesterdayKrebs on Security

RaidForums Gets Raided, Alleged Admin Arrested

12 April 2022 at 17:29

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said today it seized the website and user database for RaidForums, an extremely popular English-language cybercrime forum that sold access to more than 10 billion consumer records stolen in some of the world’s largest data breaches since 2015. The DOJ also charged the alleged administrator of RaidForums — 21-year-old Diogo Santos Coelho, of Portugal — with six criminal counts, including conspiracy, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The “raid” in RaidForums is a nod to the community’s humble beginnings in 2015, when it was primarily an online venue for organizing and supporting various forms of electronic harassment. According to the DOJ, that early activity included ‘raiding‘ — posting or sending an overwhelming volume of contact to a victim’s online communications medium — and ‘swatting,’ the practice of making false reports to public safety agencies of situations that would necessitate a significant, and immediate armed law enforcement response.”

But over the years as trading in hacked databases became big business, RaidForums emerged as the go-to place for English-speaking hackers to peddle their wares. Perhaps the most bustling marketplace within RaidForums was its “Leaks Market,” which described itself as a place to buy, sell, and trade hacked databases and leaks.

The government alleges Coelho and his forum administrator identity “Omnipotent” profited from the illicit activity on the platform by charging “escalating prices for membership tiers that offered greater access and features, including a top-tier ‘God’ membership status.”

“RaidForums also sold ‘credits’ that provided members access to privileged areas of the website and enabled members to ‘unlock’ and download stolen financial information, means of identification, and data from compromised databases, among other items,” the DOJ said in a written statement. “Members could also earn credits through other means, such as by posting instructions on how to commit certain illegal acts.”

Prosecutors say Coelho also personally sold stolen data on the platform, and that Omnipotent directly facilitated illicit transactions by operating a fee-based “Official Middleman” service, a kind of escrow or insurance service that denizens of RaidForums were encouraged to use when transacting with other criminals.

Investigators described multiple instances wherein undercover federal agents or confidential informants used Omnipotent’s escrow service to purchase huge tranches of data from one of Coelho’s alternate user  identities — meaning Coelho not only sold data he’d personally hacked but also further profited by insisting the transactions were handled through his own middleman service.

Not all of those undercover buys went as planned. One incident described in an affidavit by prosecutors (PDF) appears related to the sale of tens of millions of consumer records stolen last year from T-Mobile, although the government refers to the victim only as a major telecommunications company and wireless network operator in the United States.

On Aug. 11, 2021, an individual using the moniker “SubVirt” posted on RaidForums an offer to sell Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other records on more than 120 million people in the United States (SubVirt would later edit the sales thread to say 30 million records). Just days later, T-Mobile would acknowledge a data breach affecting 40 million current, former or prospective customers who applied for credit with the company.

The government says the victim firm hired a third-party to purchase the database and prevent it from being sold to cybercriminals. That third-party ultimately paid approximately $200,000 worth of bitcoin to the seller, with the agreement that the data would be destroyed after sale. “However, it appears the co-conspirators continued to attempt to sell the databases after the third-party’s purchase,” the affidavit alleges.

The FBI’s seizure of RaidForums was first reported by KrebsOnSecurity on Mar. 23, after a federal investigator confirmed rumors that the FBI had been secretly operating the RaidForums website for weeks.

Coelho landed on the radar of U.S. authorities in June 2018, when he tried to enter the United States at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. The government obtained a warrant to search the electronic devices Coelho had in his luggage and found text messages, files and emails showing he was the RaidForums administrator Omnipotent.

“In an attempt to retrieve his items, Coelho called the lead FBI case agent on or around August 2, 2018, and used the email address [email protected] to email the agent,” the government’s affidavit states. Investigators found this same address was used to register rf.ws and raid.lol, which Omnipotent announced on the forum would serve as alternative domain names for RaidForums in case the site’s primary domain was seized.

The DOJ said Coelho was arrested in the United Kingdom on January 31, at the United States’ request, and remains in custody pending the resolution of his extradition hearing. A statement from the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said the RaidForums takedown was the result of “Operation Tourniquet,” an investigation carried out by the NCA in cooperation with the United States, Europol and four other countries that resulted in “a number of linked arrests.”

A copy of the indictment against Coelho is available here (PDF).

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, April 2022 Edition

13 April 2022 at 15:01

Microsoft on Tuesday released updates to fix roughly 120 security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and other software. Two of the flaws have been publicly detailed prior to this week, and one is already seeing active exploitation, according to a report from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Of particular concern this month is CVE-2022-24521, which is a “privilege escalation” vulnerability in the Windows common log file system driver. In its advisory, Microsoft said it received a report from the NSA that the flaw is under active attack.

“It’s not stated how widely the exploit is being used in the wild, but it’s likely still targeted at this point and not broadly available,” assessed Dustin Childs with Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “Go patch your systems before that situation changes.”

Nine of the updates pushed this week address problems Microsoft considers “critical,” meaning the flaws they fix could be abused by malware or malcontents to seize total, remote access to a Windows system without any help from the user.

Among the scariest critical bugs is CVE-2022-26809, a potentially “wormable” weakness in a core Windows component (RPC) that earned a CVSS score of 9.8 (10 being the worst). Microsoft said it believes exploitation of this flaw is more likely than not.

Other potentially wormable threats this month include CVE-2022-24491 and CVE-2022-24497, Windows Network File System (NFS) vulnerabilities that also clock in at 9.8 CVSS scores and are listed as “exploitation more likely by Microsoft.”

“These could be the kind of vulnerabilities which appeal to ransomware operators as they provide the potential to expose critical data,” said Kevin Breen, director of cyber threat research at Immersive Labs. “It is also important for security teams to note that NFS Role is not a default configuration for Windows devices.”

Speaking of wormable flaws, CVE-2022-24500 is a critical bug in the Windows Server Message Block (SMB).

“This is especially poignant as we approach the anniversary of WannaCry, which famously used the EternalBlue SMB vulnerability to propagate at great pace,” Breen added. “Microsoft advises blocking TCP port 445 at the perimeter firewall, which is strong advice regardless of this specific vulnerability. While this won’t stop exploitation from attackers inside the local network, it will prevent new attacks originating from the Internet.”

In addition, this month’s patch batch from Redmond brings updates for Exchange Server, Office, SharePoint Server, Windows Hyper-V, DNS Server, Skype for Business, .NET and Visual Studio, Windows App Store, and Windows Print Spooler components.

As it generally does on the second Tuesday of each month, Adobe released four patches addressing 70 vulnerabilities in Acrobat and Reader, Photoshop, After Effects, and Adobe Commerce. More information on those updates is available here.

For a complete rundown of all patches released by Microsoft today and indexed by severity and other metrics, check out the always-useful Patch Tuesday roundup from the SANS Internet Storm Center. And it’s not a bad idea to hold off updating for a few days until Microsoft works out any kinks in the updates: AskWoody.com usually has the lowdown on any patches that may be causing problems for Windows users.

As always, please consider backing up your system or at least your important documents and data before applying system updates. And if you run into any problems with these patches, please drop a note about it here in the comments.

Conti’s Ransomware Toll on the Healthcare Industry

18 April 2022 at 20:41

Conti — one of the most ruthless and successful Russian ransomware groups — publicly declared during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that it would refrain from targeting healthcare providers. But new information confirms this pledge was always a lie, and that Conti has launched more than 200 attacks against hospitals and other healthcare facilities since first surfacing in 2018 under its earlier name, “Ryuk.”

On April 13, Microsoft said it executed a legal sneak attack against Zloader, a remote access trojan and malware platform that multiple ransomware groups have used to deploy their malware inside victim networks. More specifically, Microsoft obtained a court order that allowed it to seize 65 domain names that were used to maintain the Zloader botnet.

Microsoft’s civil lawsuit against Zloader names seven “John Does,” essentially seeking information to identify cybercriminals who used Zloader to conduct ransomware attacks. As the company’s complaint notes, some of these John Does were associated with lesser ransomware collectives such as Egregor and Netfilim.

But according to Microsoft and an advisory from the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Zloader had a special relationship with Ryuk/Conti, acting as a preferred distribution platform for deploying Ryuk/Conti ransomware.

Several parties backed Microsoft in its legal efforts against Zloader by filing supporting declarations, including Errol Weiss, a former penetration tester for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Weiss now serves as the chief security officer of the Health Information Sharing & Analysis Center (H-ISAC), an industry group that shares information about cyberattacks against healthcare providers.

Weiss said ransomware attacks from Ryuk/Conti have impacted hundreds of healthcare facilities across the United States, including facilities located in 192 cities and 41 states and the District of Columbia.

“The attacks resulted in the temporary or permanent loss of IT systems that support many of the provider delivery functions in modern hospitals resulting in cancelled surgeries and delayed medical care,” Weiss said in a declaration (PDF) with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Hospitals reported revenue losses due to Ryuk infections of nearly $100 million from data I obtained through interviews with hospital staff, public statements, and media articles,” Weiss wrote. “The Ryuk attacks also caused an estimated $500 million in costs to respond to the attacks – costs that include ransomware payments, digital forensic services, security improvements and upgrading impacted systems plus other expenses.”

The figures cited by Weiss appear highly conservative. A single attack by Ryuk/Conti in May 2021 against Ireland’s Health Service Executive, which operates the country’s public health system, resulted in massive disruptions to healthcare in Ireland. In June 2021, the HSE’s director general said the recovery costs for that attack were likely to exceed USD $600 million.

Conti ravaged the healthcare sector throughout 2020, and leaked internal chats from the Conti ransomware group show the gang had access to more than 400 healthcare facilities in the U.S. alone by October 2020.

On Oct. 28, 2020, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that FBI and DHS officials had seen reliable intelligence indicating the group planned to ransom many of these care facilities simultaneously. Hours after that October 2020 piece ran, I heard from a respected H-ISAC security professional who questioned whether it was worth getting the public so riled up. The story had been updated multiple times throughout the day, and there were at least five healthcare organizations hit with ransomware within the span of 24 hours.

“I guess it would help if I understood what the baseline is, like how many healthcare organizations get hit with ransomware on average in one week?” I asked the source.

“It’s more like one a day,” the source confided.

A report in February 2022 from Sophos found Conti orchestrated a cyberattack against a Canadian healthcare provider in late 2021. Security software firm Emsisoft found that at least 68 healthcare providers suffered ransomware attacks last year.

While Conti is just one of many ransomware groups threatening the healthcare industry, it seems likely that ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector are underreported. Perhaps this is because a large percentage of victims are paying a ransom demand to keep their data (and news of their breach) confidential. A survey published in February by email security provider Proofpoint found almost 60 percent of victims hit by ransomware paid their extortionists.

Or perhaps it’s because many crime groups have shifted focus away from deploying ransomware and toward stealing data and demanding payment not to publish the information. Conti shames victims who refuse to pay a ransom by posting their internal data on their darkweb blog.

Since the beginning of 2022, Conti has claimed responsibility for hacking a cancer testing lab, a medical prescription service online, a biomedical testing facility, a pharmaceutical company, and a spinal surgery center.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society recently released its 2021 HIMSS Healthcare Cybersecurity Survey (PDF), which interviewed 167 healthcare cybersecurity professionals and found 67 percent had experienced a “significant security incident” in the past year.

The survey also found that just six percent or less of respondent’s information technology budgets were devoted to cybersecurity, although roughly 60 percent of respondents said their cybersecurity budgets would increase in 2022. Last year, just 79 percent of respondents said they’d fully implemented antivirus or other anti-malware systems; only 43 percent reported they’d fully implemented intrusion detection and prevention technologies.

The FBI says Conti typically gains access to victim networks through weaponized malicious email links, attachments, or stolen Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) credentials, and that it weaponizes Microsoft Office documents with embedded Powershell scripts — initially staging Cobalt Strike via the Office documents and then dropping Emotet onto the network — giving them the ability to deploy ransomware. The FBI said Conti has been observed inside victim networks between four days and three weeks on average before deploying Conti ransomware.

Leaked Chats Show LAPSUS$ Stole T-Mobile Source Code

22 April 2022 at 13:09

KrebsOnSecurity recently reviewed a copy of the private chat messages between members of the LAPSUS$ cybercrime group in the week leading up to the arrest of its most active members last month. The logs show LAPSUS$ breached T-Mobile multiple times in March, stealing source code for a range of company projects. T-Mobile says no customer or government information was stolen in the intrusion.

LAPSUS$ is known for stealing data and then demanding a ransom not to publish or sell it. But the leaked chats indicate this mercenary activity was of little interest to the tyrannical teenage leader of LAPSUS$, whose obsession with stealing and leaking proprietary computer source code from the world’s largest tech companies ultimately led to the group’s undoing.

From its inception in December 2021 until its implosion late last month, LAPSUS$ operated openly on its Telegram chat channel, which quickly grew to more than 40,000 followers after the group started using it to leak huge volumes of sensitive data stolen from victim corporations.

But LAPSUS$ also used private Telegram channels that were restricted to the core seven members of the group. KrebsOnSecurity recently received a week’s worth of these private conversations between LAPSUS$ members as they plotted their final attacks late last month.

The candid conversations show LAPSUS$ frequently obtained the initial access to targeted organizations by purchasing it from sites like Russian Market, which sell access to remotely compromised systems, as well as any credentials stored on those systems.

The logs indicate LAPSUS$ had exactly zero problems buying, stealing or sweet-talking their way into employee accounts at companies they wanted to hack. The bigger challenge for LAPSUS$ was the subject mentioned by “Lapsus Jobs” in the screenshot above: Device enrollment. In most cases, this involved social engineering employees at the targeted firm into adding one of their computers or mobiles to the list of devices allowed to authenticate with the company’s virtual private network (VPN).

The messages show LAPSUS$ members continuously targeted T-Mobile employees, whose access to internal company tools could give them everything they needed to conduct hassle-free “SIM swaps” — reassigning a target’s mobile phone number to a device they controlled. These unauthorized sim swaps allow an attacker to intercept a target’s text messages and phone calls, including any links sent via SMS for password resets, or one-time codes sent for multi-factor authentication.

The LAPSUS$ group had a laugh at this screenshot posted by their leader, White, which shows him reading a T-Mobile news alert about their hack into Samsung. White is viewing the page via a T-Mobile employee’s virtual machine.

In one chat, the LAPSUS$ leader — a 17-year-old from the U.K. who goes by the nicknames “White,” “WhiteDoxbin” and “Oklaqq” — is sharing his screen with another LAPSUS$ member who used the handles “Amtrak” and “Asyntax.”

The two were exploring T-Mobile’s internal systems, and Amtrak asked White to obscure the T-Mobile logo on his screen. In these chats, the user “Lapsus Jobs” is White. Amtrak explains this odd request by saying their parents are aware Amtrak was previously involved in SIM swapping.

“Parents know I simswap,” Amtrak said. “So, if they see [that] they think I’m hacking.”

The messages reveal that each time LAPSUS$ was cut off from a T-Mobile employee’s account — either because the employee tried to log in or change their password — they would just find or buy another set of T-Mobile VPN credentials. T-Mobile currently has approximately 75,000 employees worldwide.

On March 19, 2022, the logs and accompanying screenshots show LAPSUS$ had gained access to Atlas, a powerful internal T-Mobile tool for managing customer accounts.

LAPSUS$ leader White/Lapsus Jobs looking up the Department of Defense in T-Mobile’s internal Atlas system.

After gaining access to Atlas, White proceeded to look up T-Mobile accounts associated with the FBI and Department of Defense (see image above). Fortunately, those accounts were listed as requiring additional verification procedures before any changes could be processed.

Faced with increasingly vocal pleadings from other LAPSUS$ members not to burn their access to Atlas and other tools by trying to SIM swap government accounts, White unilaterally decided to terminate the VPN connection permitting access to T-Mobile’s network.

The other LAPSUS$ members desperately wanted to SIM swap some wealthy targets for money. Amtrak throws a fit, saying “I worked really hard for this!” White calls the Atlas access trash and then kills the VPN connection anyway, saying he wanted to focus on using their illicit T-Mobile access to steal source code.

A screenshot taken by LAPSUS$ inside T-Mobile’s source code repository at Bitbucket.

Perhaps to mollify his furious teammates, White changed the subject and told them he’d gained access to T-Mobile’s Slack and Bitbucket accounts. He said he’d figured out how to upload files to the virtual machine he had access to at T-Mobile.

Roughly 12 hours later, White posts a screenshot in their private chat showing his automated script had downloaded more than 30,000 source code repositories from T-Mobile.

White showing a screenshot of a script that he said downloaded all available T-Mobile source code.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, T-Mobile issued the following statement:

“Several weeks ago, our monitoring tools detected a bad actor using stolen credentials to access internal systems that house operational tools software. The systems accessed contained no customer or government information or other similarly sensitive information, and we have no evidence that the intruder was able to obtain anything of value. Our systems and processes worked as designed, the intrusion was rapidly shut down and closed off, and the compromised credentials used were rendered obsolete.”

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

It is not clear why LAPSUS$ was so fixated on stealing source code. Perhaps LAPSUS$ thought they could find in the source clues about security weaknesses that could be used to further hack these companies and their customers. Maybe the group already had buyers lined up for specific source code that they were then hired to procure. Or maybe it was all one big Capture the Flag competition, with source code being the flag. The leaked chats don’t exactly explain this fixation.

But it seems likely that the group routinely tried to steal and then delete any source code it could find on victim systems. That way, it could turn around and demand a payment to restore the deleted data.

In one conversation in late March, a LAPSUS$ member posts screenshots and other data indicating they’d gained remote administrative access to a multi-billion dollar company. But White is seemingly unimpressed, dismissing the illicit access as not worth the group’s time because there was no source code to be had.

LAPSUS$ first surfaced in December 2021, when it hacked into Brazil’s Ministry of Health and deleted more than 50 terabytes of data stored on the ministry’s hacked servers. The deleted data included information related to the ministry’s efforts to track and fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, which has suffered a disproportionate 13 percent of the world’s COVID-19 fatalities. LAPSUS$’s next 15 victims were based either in Latin America or Portugal, according to cyber threat intelligence firm Flashpoint.

By February 2022, LAPSUS$ had pivoted to targeting high-tech firms based in the United States. On Feb. 26, LAPSUS$ broke into graphics and computing chip maker NVIDIA. The group said it stole more than a terabyte of NVIDIA data, including source code and employee credentials.

Dan Goodin at Ars Technica wrote about LAPSUS$’s unusual extortion demand against NVIDIA: The group pledged to publish the stolen code unless NVIDIA agreed to make the drivers for its video cards open-source. According to these chats, NVIDIA responded by connecting to the computer the attackers were using, and then encrypting the stolen data.

Like many high-tech firms whose value is closely tied to their intellectual property, NVIDIA relies on a number of technologies designed to prevent data leaks or theft. According to LAPSUS$, among those is a requirement that only devices which have been approved or issued by the company can be used to access its virtual private network (VPN).

These so-called Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems retrieve information about the underlying hardware and software powering the system requesting access, and then relay that information along with any login credentials.

In a typical MDM setup, a company will issue employees a laptop or smartphone that has been pre-programmed with a data profile, VPN and other software that allows the employer to track, monitor, troubleshoot or even wipe device data in the event of theft, loss, or a detected breach.

MDM tools also can be used to encrypt or retrieve data from connected systems, and this was purportedly the functionality NVIDIA used to claw back the information stolen by LAPSUS$.

“Access to NVIDIA employee VPN requires the PC to be enrolled in MDM,” LAPSUS$ wrote in a post on their public Telegram channel. “With this they were able to connect to a [virtual machine] that we use. Yes, they successfully encrypted the data. However, we have a backup and it’s safe from scum!!!”

NVIDIA declined to comment for this story.

On March 7, consumer electronics giant Samsung confirmed what LAPSUS$ had bragged on its Telegram channel: That the group had stolen and leaked nearly 200 GB of source code and other internal company data.

The chats reveal that LAPSUS$ stole a great deal more source code than they bragged about online. One of White’s curious fascinations was SASCAR, Brazil’s leading fleet management and freight security company. White had bought and talked his way into SASCAR’s systems, and had stolen many gigabytes worth of source code for the company’s fleet tracking software.

It was bad enough that LAPSUS$ had just relieved this company of valuable intellectual property: The chats show that for several days White taunted SASCAR employees who were responding to the then-unfolding breach, at first by defacing the company’s website with porn.

The messages show White maintained access to the company’s internal systems for at least 24 hours after that, even sitting in on the company’s incident response communications where the security team discussed how to evict their tormentors.

SASCAR is owned by tire industry giant Michelin, which did not respond to requests for comment.

ENROLLMENT

The leaked LAPSUS$ internal chats show the group spent a great deal of time trying to bypass multi-factor authentication for the credentials they’d stolen. By the time these leaked chat logs were recorded, LAPSUS$ had spent days relentlessly picking on another target that relied on MDM to restrict employee logins: Iqor, a customer support outsourcing company based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

LAPSUS$ apparently had no trouble using Russian Market to purchase access to Iqor employee systems. “I will buy login when on sale, Russians stock it every 3-4 days,” Amtrak wrote regarding Iqor credentials for sale in the bot shops.

The real trouble for LAPSUS$ came when the group tried to evade Iqor’s MDM systems by social engineering Iqor employees into removing multi-factor authentication on Iqor accounts they’d purchased previously. The chats show that time and again Iqor’s employees simply refused requests to modify multi-factor authentication settings on the targeted accounts, or make any changes unless the requests were coming from authorized devices.

One of several IQOR support engineers who told LAPSUS$ no over and over again.

After many days of trying, LAPSUS$ ultimately gave up on Iqor. On Mar. 22, LAPSUS$ announced it hacked Microsoft, and began leaking 37 gigabytes worth of Microsoft source code.

Like NVIDIA, Microsoft was able to stanch some of the bleeding, cutting off LAPSUS$’s illicit access while the group was in the process of downloading all of the available source code repositories alphabetically (the group publicized their access to Microsoft at the same time they were downloading the software giant’s source code). As a result, LAPSUS$ was only able to leak the source for Microsoft products at the beginning of the code repository, including Azure, Bing and Cortana.

BETRAYAL

LAPSUS$ leader White drew attention to himself prior to the creation of LAPSUS$ last year when he purchased a website called Doxbin, a long-running and highly toxic online community that is used to “dox” or post deeply personal information on people.

Based on the feedback posted by Doxbin members, White was not a particularly attentive administrator. Longtime members soon took to harassing him about various components of the site falling into disrepair. That pestering eventually prompted White to sell Doxbin back to its previous owner at a considerable loss. But before doing so, White leaked the Doxbin user database.

White’s leak triggered a swift counterpunch from Doxbin’s staff, which naturally responded by posting on White perhaps the most thorough dox the forum had ever produced — including videos filmed just outside his home where he lives with his parents in the United Kingdom.

The past and current owner of the Doxbin — an established cybercriminal who goes by the handle “KT” — is the same person who leaked these private LAPSUS$ Telegram chat logs to KrebsOnSecurity.

In early April, multiple news outlets reported that U.K. police had arrested seven people aged 15-21 in connection with the LAPSUS$ investigation. But it seems clear from reading these leaked Telegram chats that individual members of LAPSUS$ were detained and questioned at different times over the course of several months.

In his chats with other LAPSUS$ members during the last week in March, White maintained that he was arrested 1-2 months prior in connection with an intrusion against a victim referred to only by the initials “BT.” White also appeared unconcerned when Amtrak admits that the City of London police found LAPSUS$ Telegram chat conversations on his mobile phone.

Perhaps to demonstrate his indifference (or maybe just to screw with Amtrak), White responds by leaking Amtrak’s real name and phone number to the group’s public Telegram channel. In an ALL CAPS invective of disbelief at the sudden betrayal, Amtrak relates how various people started calling their home and threatening their parents as a result, and how White effectively outed them to law enforcement and the rest of the world as a LAPSUS$ member.

The vast majority of noteworthy activity documented in these private chats takes place between White and Amtrak, but it doesn’t seem that White counted Amtrak or any of his fellow LAPSUS$ members as friends or confidants. On the contrary, White generally behaved horribly toward everyone in the group, and he particularly seemed to enjoy abusing Amtrak (who somehow always came back for more).

Mox,” one of the LAPSUS$ members who shows up throughout these leaked chats, helped the group in their unsuccessful attempts to enroll their mobile devices with an airline in the Middle East to which they had purchased access. Audio recordings leaked from the group’s private Telegram channel include a call wherein Mox can be heard speaking fluently in Arabic and impersonating an airline employee.

At one point, Mox’s first name briefly shows up in a video he made and shared with the group, and Mox mentions that he lives in the United States. White then begins trying to find and leak Mox’s real-life identity.

When Mox declares he’s so scared he wants to delete his iCloud account, White suggests he can get Mox’s real name, precise location and other information by making a fraudulent “emergency data request” (EDR) to Apple, in which they use a hacked police department email account to request emergency access to subscriber information under the claim that the request can’t wait for a warrant because someone’s life is on the line.

White was no stranger to fake EDRs. White was a founding member of a cybercriminal group called “Recursion Team,” which existed between 2020 and 2021. This group mostly specialized in SIM swapping targets of interest and participating in “swatting” attacks, wherein fake bomb threats, hostage situations and other violent scenarios are phoned in to police as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly force on a target’s address.

The roster of the now-defunct “Infinity Recursion” hacking team, from which some members of LAPSUS$ hail.

The Recursion Team was founded by a then 14-year-old from the United Kingdom who used the handle “Everlynn.” On April 5, 2021, Everlynn posted a new sales thread to the cybercrime forum cracked[.]to titled, “Warrant/subpoena service (get law enforcement data from any service).” The price: $100 to $250 per request.

Everlynn advertising a warrant/subpoena service based on fake EDRs.

Bringing this full circle, it appears Amtrak/Asyntax is the same person as Everlynn. As part of the Recursion Team, White used the alias “Peter.” Several LAPSUS$ members quizzed White and Amtrak about whether authorities asked about Recursion Team during questioning. In several discussion threads, White’s “Lapsus Jobs” alias on Telegram answers “yes?” or “I’m here” when another member addresses him by Peter.

White dismissed his public doxing of both Amtrak and Mox as their fault for being sloppy with operational security, or by claiming that everyone already knew their real identities. Incredibly, just a few minutes after doxing Amtrak, White nonchalantly asks them for help in stealing source code from yet another victim firm — as if nothing had just happened between them. Amtrak seems soothed by this invitation, and agrees to help.

On Mar. 30, software consultancy giant Globant was forced to acknowledge a hack after LAPSUS$ published 70 gigabytes of data stolen from the company, including customers’ source code. While the Globant hack has been widely reported for weeks, the cause of the breach remained hidden in these chat logs: A stolen five-year-old access token for Globant’s network that still worked.

LAPSUS$ members marvel at a 5-year-old stolen authentication cookie still working when they use it against Globant to steal source code.

Globant lists a number of high-profile customers on its website, including the U.K. Metropolitan Police, software house Autodesk and gaming giant Electronic Arts. In March, KrebsOnSecurity showed how White was connected to the theft of 780 GB worth of source code from Electronic Arts last summer.

In that attack, the intruders reportedly gained access to EA’s data after purchasing authentication cookies for an EA Slack channel from the dark web marketplace “Genesis,” which offers more or less the same wares as the Russian Market.

One remarkable aspect of LAPSUS$ was that its members apparently decided not to personally download or store any data they stole from companies they hacked. They were all so paranoid of police raiding their homes that they assiduously kept everything “in the cloud.” That way, when investigators searched their devices, they would find no traces of the stolen information.

But this strategy ultimately backfired: Shortly before the private LAPSUS$ chat was terminated, the group learned it had just lost access to the Amazon AWS server it was using to store months of source code booty and other stolen data.

“RIP FBI seized my server,” Amtrak wrote. “So much illegal shit. It’s filled with illegal shit.”

White shrugs it off with the dismissive comment, “U can’t do anything about ur server seized.” Then Amtrak replies that they never made a backup of the server.

“FFS, THAT AWS HAD TMO SRC [T-Mobile source] code!” White yelled back.

The two then make a mad scramble to hack back into T-Mobile and re-download the stolen source code. But that effort ultimately failed after T-Mobile’s systems revoked the access token they were using to raid the company’s source code stash.

“How they noticed?” Amtrak asked White.

“Gitlab auto-revoked, likely,” White replied. “Cloning 30k repos four times in 24 hours isn’t very normal.”

Ah, the irony of a criminal hacking group that specializes in stealing and deleting data having their stolen data deleted.

It’s remarkable how often LAPSUS$ was able to pay a few dollars to buy access to some hacked machine at a company they wanted to break into, and then successfully parlay that into the theft of source code and other sensitive information.

What’s even more remarkable is that anyone can access dark web bot shops like Russian Market and Genesis, which means larger companies probably should be paying someone to regularly scrape these criminal bot services, even buying back their own employee credentials to take those vulnerable systems off the market. Because that’s probably the simplest and cheapest incident response money can buy.

The Genesis bot shop.

Fighting Fake EDRs With ‘Credit Ratings’ for Police

27 April 2022 at 14:27

When KrebsOnSecurity recently explored how cybercriminals were using hacked email accounts at police departments worldwide to obtain warrantless Emergency Data Requests (EDRs) from social media firms and technology providers, many security experts called it a fundamentally unfixable problem. But don’t tell that to Matt Donahue, a former FBI agent who recently quit the agency to launch a startup that aims to help tech companies do a better job screening out phony law enforcement data requests — in part by assigning trustworthiness or “credit ratings” to law enforcement authorities worldwide.

A sample Kodex dashboard. Image: Kodex.us.

Donahue is co-founder of Kodex, a company formed in February 2021 that builds security portals designed to help tech companies “manage information requests from government agencies who contact them, and to securely transfer data & collaborate against abuses on their platform.”

The 30-year-old Donahue said he left the FBI in April 2020 to start Kodex because it was clear that social media and technology companies needed help validating the increasingly large number of law enforcement requests domestically and internationally.

“So much of this is such an antiquated, manual process,” Donahue said of his perspective gained at the FBI. “In a lot of cases we’re still sending faxes when more secure and expedient technologies exist.”

Donahue said when he brought the subject up with his superiors at the FBI, they would kind of shrug it off, as if to say, “This is how it’s done and there’s no changing it.”

“My bosses told me I was committing career suicide doing this, but I genuinely believe fixing this process will do more for national security than a 20-year career at the FBI,” he said. “This is such a bigger problem than people give it credit for, and that’s why I left the bureau to start this company.”

One of the stated goals of Kodex is to build a scoring or reputation system for law enforcement personnel who make these data requests. After all, there are tens of thousands of police jurisdictions around the world — including roughly 18,000 in the United States alone — and all it takes for hackers to abuse the EDR process is illicit access to a single police email account.

Kodex is trying to tackle the problem of fake EDRs by working directly with the data providers to pool information about police or government officials submitting these requests, and hopefully making it easier for all customers to spot an unauthorized EDR.

Kodex’s first big client was cryptocurrency giant Coinbase, which confirmed their partnership but otherwise declined to comment for this story. Twilio confirmed it uses Kodex’s technology for law enforcement requests destined for any of its business units, but likewise declined to comment further.

Within their own separate Kodex portals, Twilio can’t see requests submitted to Coinbase, or vice versa. But each can see if a law enforcement entity or individual tied to one of their own requests has ever submitted a request to a different Kodex client, and then drill down further into other data about the submitter, such as Internet address(es) used, and the age of the requestor’s email address.

Donahue said in Kodex’s system, each law enforcement entity is assigned a credit rating, wherein officials who have a long history of sending valid legal requests will have a higher rating than someone sending an EDR for the first time.

“In those cases, we warn the customer with a flash on the request when it pops up that we’re allowing this to come through because the email was verified [as being sent from a valid police or government domain name], but we’re trying to verify the emergency situation for you, and we will change that rating once we get new information about the emergency,” Donahue said.

“This way, even if one customer gets a fake request, we’re able to prevent it from happening to someone else,” he continued. “In a lot of cases with fake EDRs, you can see the same email [address] being used to message different companies for data. And that’s the problem: So many companies are operating in their own silos and are not able to share information about what they’re seeing, which is why we’re seeing scammers exploit this good faith process of EDRs.”

NEEDLES IN THE HAYSTACK

As social media and technology platforms have grown over the years, so have the volumes of requests from law enforcement agencies worldwide for user data. For example, in its latest transparency report mobile giant Verizon reported receiving 114,000 data requests of all types from U.S. law enforcement entities in the second half of 2021.

Verizon said approximately 35,000 of those requests (~30 percent) were EDRs, and that it provided data in roughly 91 percent of those cases. The company doesn’t disclose how many EDRs came from foreign law enforcement entities during that same time period. Verizon currently asks law enforcement officials to send these requests via fax.

Validating legal requests by domain name may be fine for data demands that include documents like subpoenas and search warrants, which can be validated with the courts. But not so for EDRs, which largely bypass any official review and do not require the requestor to submit any court-approved documents.

Police and government authorities can legitimately request EDRs to learn the whereabouts or identities of people who have posted online about plans to harm themselves or others, or in other exigent circumstances such as a child abduction or abuse, or a potential terrorist attack.

But as KrebsOnSecurity reported in March, it is now clear that crooks have figured out there is no quick and easy way for a company that receives one of these EDRs to know whether it is legitimate. Using illicit access to hacked police email accounts, the attackers will send a fake EDR along with an attestation that innocent people will likely suffer greatly or die unless the requested data is provided immediately.

In this scenario, the receiving company finds itself caught between two unsavory outcomes: Failing to immediately comply with an EDR — and potentially having someone’s blood on their hands — or possibly leaking a customer record to the wrong person. That might explain why the compliance rate for EDRs is usually quite high — often upwards of 90 percent.

Fake EDRs have become such a reliable method in the cybercrime underground for obtaining information about account holders that several cybercriminals have started offering services that will submit these fraudulent EDRs on behalf of paying clients to a number of top social media and technology firms.

A fake EDR service advertised on a hacker forum in 2021.

An individual who’s part of the community of crooks that are abusing fake EDR told KrebsOnSecurity the schemes often involve hacking into police department emails by first compromising the agency’s website. From there, they can drop a backdoor “shell” on the server to secure permanent access, and then create new email accounts within the hacked organization.

In other cases, hackers will try to guess the passwords of police department email systems. In these attacks, the hackers will identify email addresses associated with law enforcement personnel, and then attempt to authenticate using passwords those individuals have used at other websites that have been breached previously.

EDR OVERLOAD?

Donahue said depending on the industry, EDRs make up between 5 percent and 30 percent of the total volume of requests. In contrast, he said, EDRs amount to less than three percent of the requests sent through Kodex portals used by customers.

KrebsOnSecurity sought to verify those numbers by compiling EDR statistics based on annual or semi-annual transparency reports from some of the largest technology and social media firms. While there are no available figures on the number of fake EDRs each provider is receiving each year, those phony requests can easily hide amid an increasingly heavy torrent of legitimate demands.

Meta/Facebook says roughly 11 percent of all law enforcement data requests — 21,700 of them — were EDRs in the first half of 2021. Almost 80 percent of the time the company produced at least some data in response. Facebook has long used its own online portal where law enforcement officials must first register before submitting requests.

Government data requests, including EDRs, received by Facebook over the years. Image: Meta Transparency Report.

Apple said it received 1,162 emergency requests for data in the last reporting period it made public — July – December 2020. Apple’s compliance with EDRs was 93 percent worldwide in 2020. Apple’s website says it accepts EDRs via email, after applicants have filled out a supplied PDF form. [As a lifelong Apple user and customer, I was floored to learn that the richest company in the world — which for several years has banked heavily on privacy and security promises to customers — still relies on email for such sensitive requests].

Twitter says it received 1,860 EDRs in the first half of 2021, or roughly 15 percent of the global information requests sent to Twitter. Twitter accepts EDRs via an interactive form on the company’s website. Twitter reports that EDRs decreased by 25% during this reporting period, while the aggregate number of accounts specified in these requests decreased by 15%. The United States submitted the highest volume of global emergency requests (36%), followed by Japan (19%), and India (12%).

Discord reported receiving 378 requests for emergency data disclosure in the first half of 2021. Discord accepts EDRs via a specified email address.

For the six months ending in December 2021, Snapchat said it received 2,085 EDRs from authorities in the United States (with a 59 percent compliance rate), and another 1,448 from international police (64 percent granted). Snapchat has a form for submitting EDRs on its website.

TikTok‘s resources on government data requests currently lead to a “Page not found” error, but a company spokesperson said TikTok received 715 EDRs in the first half of 2021. That’s up from 409 EDRs in the previous six months. Tiktok handles EDRs via a form on its website.

The current transparency reports for both Google and Microsoft do not break out EDRs by category. Microsoft says that in the second half of 2021 it received more than 25,000 government requests, and that it complied at least partly with those requests more than 90 percent of the time.

Microsoft runs its own portal that law enforcement officials must register at to submit legal requests, but that portal doesn’t accept requests for other Microsoft properties, such as LinkedIn or Github.

Google said it received more than 113,000 government requests for user data in the last half of 2020, and that about 76 percent of the requests resulted in the disclosure of some user information. Google doesn’t publish EDR numbers, and it did not respond to requests for those figures. Google also runs its own portal for accepting law enforcement data requests.

Verizon reports (PDF) receiving more than 35,000 EDRs from just U.S. law enforcement in the second half of 2021, out of a total of 114,000 law enforcement requests (Verizon doesn’t disclose how many EDRs came from foreign law enforcement entities). Verizon said it complied with approximately 91 percent of requests. The company accepts law enforcement requests via snail mail or fax.

Image: Verizon.com.

AT&T says (PDF) it received nearly 19,000 EDRs in the second half of 2021; it provided some data roughly 95 percent of the time. AT&T requires EDRs to be faxed.

The most recent transparency report published by T-Mobile says the company received more than 164,000 “emergency/911” requests in 2020 — but it does not specifically call out EDRs. Like its old school telco brethren, T-Mobile requires EDRs to be faxed. T-Mobile did not respond to requests for more information.

Data from T-Mobile’s most recent transparency report in 2020. Image: T-Mobile.

You Can Now Ask Google to Remove Your Phone Number, Email or Address from Search Results

29 April 2022 at 19:25

Google said this week it is expanding the types of data people can ask to have removed from search results, to include personal contact information like your phone number, email address or physical address. The move comes just months after Google rolled out a new policy enabling people under the age of 18 (or a parent/guardian) to request removal of their images from Google search results.

Google has for years accepted requests to remove certain sensitive data such as bank account or credit card numbers from search results. In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s Michelle Chang wrote that the company’s expanded policy now allows for the removal of additional information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials, email addresses and phone numbers when it appears in Search results.

“When we receive removal requests, we will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that we’re not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles,” Chang wrote. “We’ll also evaluate if the content appears as part of the public record on the sites of government or official sources. In such cases, we won’t make removals.”

While Google’s removal of a search result from its index will do nothing to remove the offending content from the site that is hosting it, getting a link decoupled from Google search results is going to make the content at that link far less visible. According to recent estimates, Google enjoys somewhere near 90 percent market share in search engine usage.

KrebsOnSecurity decided to test this expanded policy with what would appear to be a no-brainer request: I asked Google to remove search result for BriansClub, one of the largest (if not THE largest) cybercrime stores for selling stolen payment card data.

BriansClub has long abused my name and likeness to pimp its wares on the hacking forums. Its homepage includes a copy of my credit report, Social Security card, phone bill, and a fake but otherwise official looking government ID card.

The login page for perhaps the most bustling cybercrime store for stolen payment card data.

Briansclub updated its homepage with this information in 2019, after it got massively hacked and a copy of its customer database was shared with this author. The leaked data — which included 26 million credit and debit card records taken from hacked online and brick-and-mortar retailers — was ultimately shared with dozens of financial institutions.

TechCrunch writes that the policy expansion comes six months after Google started allowing people under 18 or their parents request to delete their photos from search results. To do so, users need to specify that they want Google to remove “Imagery of an individual currently under the age of 18” and provide some personal information, the image URLs and search queries that would surface the results. Google also lets you submit requests to remove non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images from Google, along with involuntary fake pornography, TechCrunch notes.

This post will be updated in the event Google responds one way or the other, but that may take a while: Google’s automated response said: “Due to the preventative measures being taken for our support specialists in light of COVID-19, it may take longer than usual to respond to your support request. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and we’ll send you a reply as soon as we can.”

Update: 10:30 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that people needed to show explicit or implicit threats regarding requests to remove information like one’s phone number, address or email address from a search result. A spokesperson for Google said “there is no requirement that we find the content to be harmful or shared in a malicious way.”

Russia to Rent Tech-Savvy Prisoners to Corporate IT?

2 May 2022 at 21:29

Image: Proxima Studios, via Shutterstock.

Faced with a brain drain of smart people fleeing the country following its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Federation is floating a new strategy to address a worsening shortage of qualified information technology experts: Forcing tech-savvy people within the nation’s prison population to perform low-cost IT work for domestic companies.

Multiple Russian news outlets published stories on April 27 saying the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service had announced a plan to recruit IT specialists from Russian prisons to work remotely for domestic commercial companies.

Russians sentenced to forced labor will serve out their time at one of many correctional centers across dozens of Russian regions, usually at the center that is closest to their hometown. Alexander Khabarov, deputy head of Russia’s penitentiary service, said his agency had received proposals from businessmen in different regions to involve IT specialists serving sentences in correctional centers to work remotely for commercial companies.

Khabarov told Russian media outlets that under the proposal people with IT skills at these facilities would labor only in IT-related roles, but would not be limited to working with companies in their own region.

“We are approached with this initiative in a number of territories, in a number of subjects by entrepreneurs who work in this area,” Khabarov told Russian state media organization TASS. “We are only at the initial stage. If this is in demand, and this is most likely in demand, we think that we will not force specialists in this field to work in some other industries.”

According to Russian media site Lenta.ru, since March 21 nearly 95,000 vacancies in IT have remained unfilled in Russia. Lenta says the number unfilled job slots actually shrank 25 percent from the previous month, officially because “many Russian companies are currently reviewing their plans and budgets, and some projects have been postponed.” The story fails to even mention the recent economic sanctions that are currently affecting many Russian companies thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) estimated recently that between 70,000 and 100,000 people will leave Russia as part of the second wave of emigration of IT specialists from Russia. “The study also notes that the number of IT people who want to leave Russia is growing. Experts consider the USA, Germany, Georgia, Cyprus and Canada to be the most attractive countries for moving,” Lenta reported of the RAEC survey.

It’s not clear how many “IT specialists” are currently serving prison time in Russia, or precisely what that might mean in terms of an inmate’s IT skills and knowledge. According to the BBC, about half of the world’s prison population is held in the United States, Russia or China. The BBC says Russia currently houses nearly 875,000 inmates, or about 615 inmates for every 100,000 citizens. The United States has an even higher incarceration rate (737/100,000), but also a far larger total prison population of nearly 2.2 million.

Sergei Boyarsky, deputy chairman of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Information Policy, said the idea was worth pursuing if indeed there are a significant number of IT specialists who are already incarcerated in Russia.

“I know that we have a need in general for IT specialists, this is a growing market,” said Boyarsky, who was among the Russian leaders sanctioned by the United States Treasury on Marc. 24, 2022 in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Boyarsky is head of the St. Petersburg branch of United Russia, a strongly pro-Putin political party that holds more than 70 percent of the seats in the Russian State Duma.

“Since they still work there, it would probably be right to give people with a profession that allows them to work remotely not to lose their qualifications,” Boyarsky was quoted as saying of potentially qualified inmates. “At a minimum, this proposal is worth attention and discussion if there are a lot of such specialists.”

According to Russia’s penitentiary service, the average salary of those sentenced to forced labor is about 20,000 rubles per month, or approximately USD $281. Russian news outlet RBC reports that businesses started using prison labor after the possibility of creating correctional centers in organizations appeared in 2020. RBC notes that Russia now has 117 such centers across 76 Russian regions.

Your Phone May Soon Replace Many of Your Passwords

7 May 2022 at 13:31

Apple, Google and Microsoft announced this week they will soon support an approach to authentication that avoids passwords altogether, and instead requires users to merely unlock their smartphones to sign in to websites or online services. Experts say the changes should help defeat many types of phishing attacks and ease the overall password burden on Internet users, but caution that a true passwordless future may still be years away for most websites.

Image: Blog.google

The tech giants are part of an industry-led effort to replace passwords, which are easily forgotten, frequently stolen by malware and phishing schemes, or leaked and sold online in the wake of corporate data breaches.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are some of the more active contributors to a passwordless sign-in standard crafted by the FIDO (“Fast Identity Online”) Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), groups that have been working with hundreds of tech companies over the past decade to develop a new login standard that works the same way across multiple browsers and operating systems.

According to the FIDO Alliance, users will be able to sign in to websites through the same action that they take multiple times each day to unlock their devices — including a device PIN, or a biometric such as a fingerprint or face scan.

“This new approach protects against phishing and sign-in will be radically more secure when compared to passwords and legacy multi-factor technologies such as one-time passcodes sent over SMS,” the alliance wrote on May 5.

Sampath Srinivas, director of security authentication at Google and president of the FIDO Alliance, said that under the new system your phone will store a FIDO credential called a “passkey” which is used to unlock your online account.

“The passkey makes signing in far more secure, as it’s based on public key cryptography and is only shown to your online account when you unlock your phone,” Srinivas wrote. “To sign into a website on your computer, you’ll just need your phone nearby and you’ll simply be prompted to unlock it for access. Once you’ve done this, you won’t need your phone again and you can sign in by just unlocking your computer.”

As ZDNet notes, Apple, Google and Microsoft already support these passwordless standards (e.g. “Sign in with Google”), but users need to sign in at every website to use the passwordless functionality. Under this new system, users will be able to automatically access their passkey on many of their devices — without having to re-enroll every account — and use their mobile device to sign into an app or website on a nearby device.

Johannes Ullrich, dean of research for the SANS Technology Institute, called the announcement “by far the most promising effort to solve the authentication challenge.”

“The most important part of this standard is that it will not require users to buy a new device, but instead they may use devices they already own and know how to use as authenticators,” Ullrich said.

Steve Bellovin, a computer science professor at Columbia University and an early internet researcher and pioneer, called the passwordless effort a “huge advance” in authentication, but said it will take a very long time for many websites to catch up.

Bellovin and others say one potentially tricky scenario in this new passwordless authentication scheme is what happens when someone loses their mobile device, or their phone breaks and they can’t recall their iCloud password.

“I worry about people who can’t afford an extra device, or can’t easily replace a broken or stolen device,” Bellovin said. “I worry about forgotten password recovery for cloud accounts.”

Google says that even if you lose your phone, “your passkeys will securely sync to your new phone from cloud backup, allowing you to pick up right where your old device left off.”

Apple and Microsoft likewise have cloud backup solutions that customers using those platforms could use to recover from a lost mobile device. But Bellovin said much depends on how securely such cloud systems are administered.

“How easy is it to add another device’s public key to an account, without authorization?” Bellovin wondered. “I think their protocols make it impossible, but others disagree.”

Nicholas Weaver, a lecturer at the computer science department at University of California, Berkeley, said websites still have to have some recovery mechanism for the “you lost your phone and your password” scenario, which he described as “a really hard problem to do securely and already one of the biggest weaknesses in our current system.”

“If you forget the password and lose your phone and can recover it, now this is a huge target for attackers,” Weaver said in an email. “If you forget the password and lose your phone and CAN’T, well, now you’ve lost your authorization token that is used for logging in. It is going to have to be the latter. Apple has the infrastructure in place to support it (iCloud keychain), but it is unclear if Google does.”

Even so, he said, the overall FIDO approach has been a great tool for improving both security and usability.

“It is a really, really good step forward, and I’m delighted to see this,” Weaver said. “Taking advantage of the phone’s strong authentication of the phone owner (if you have a decent passcode) is quite nice. And at least for the iPhone you can make this robust even to phone compromise, as it is the secure enclave that would handle this and the secure enclave doesn’t trust the host operating system.”

The tech giants said the new passwordless capabilities will be enabled across Apple, Google and Microsoft platforms “over the course of the coming year.” But experts said it will likely take several more years for smaller web destinations to adopt the technology and ditch passwords altogether.

Recent research shows far too many people still reuse or recycle passwords (modifying the same password slightly), which presents an account takeover risk when those credentials eventually get exposed in a data breach. A report in March from cybersecurity firm SpyCloud found 64 percent of users reuse passwords for multiple accounts, and that 70 percent of credentials compromised in previous breaches are still in use.

A March 2022 white paper on the FIDO approach is available here (PDF). A FAQ on it is here.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, May 2022 Edition

11 May 2022 at 02:34

Microsoft today released updates to fix at least 74 separate security problems in its Windows operating systems and related software. This month’s patch batch includes fixes for seven “critical” flaws, as well as a zero-day vulnerability that affects all supported versions of Windows.

By all accounts, the most urgent bug Microsoft addressed this month is CVE-2022-26925, a weakness in a central component of Windows security (the “Local Security Authority” process within Windows). CVE-2022-26925 was publicly disclosed prior to today, and Microsoft says it is now actively being exploited in the wild. The flaw affects Windows 7 through 10 and Windows Server 2008 through 2022.

Greg Wiseman, product manager for Rapid7, said Microsoft has rated this vulnerability as important and assigned it a CVSS (danger) score of 8.1 (10 being the worst), although Microsoft notes that the CVSS score can be as high as 9.8 in certain situations.

“This allows attackers to perform a man-in-the-middle attack to force domain controllers to authenticate to the attacker using NTLM authentication,” Wiseman said. “This is very bad news when used in conjunction with an NTLM relay attack, potentially leading to remote code execution. This bug affects all supported versions of Windows, but Domain Controllers should be patched on a priority basis before updating other servers.”

Wiseman said the most recent time Microsoft patched a similar vulnerability — last August in CVE-2021-36942 — it was also being exploited in the wild under the name “PetitPotam.”

“CVE-2021-36942 was so bad it made CISA’s catalog of Known Exploited Vulnerabilities,” Wiseman said.

Seven of the flaws fixed today earned Microsoft’s most-dire “critical” label, which it assigns to vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malware or miscreants to remotely compromise a vulnerable Windows system without any help from the user.

Among those is CVE-2022-26937, which carries a CVSS score of 9.8, and affects services using the Windows Network File System (NFS). Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative notes that this bug could allow remote, unauthenticated attackers to execute code in the context of the Network File System (NFS) service on affected systems.

“NFS isn’t on by default, but it’s prevalent in environment where Windows systems are mixed with other OSes such as Linux or Unix,” ZDI’s Dustin Childs wrote. “If this describes your environment, you should definitely test and deploy this patch quickly.”

Once again, this month’s Patch Tuesday is sponsored by Windows Print Spooler, a core Windows service that keeps spooling out the security hits. May’s patches include four fixes for Print Spooler, including two information disclosure and two elevation of privilege flaws.

“All of the flaws are rated as important, and two of the three are considered more likely to be exploited,” said Satnam Narang, staff research engineer at Tenable. “Windows Print Spooler continues to remain a valuable target for attackers since PrintNightmare was disclosed nearly a year ago. Elevation of Privilege flaws in particular should be carefully prioritized, as we’ve seen ransomware groups like Conti favor them as part of its playbook.”

Other Windows components that received patches this month include .NET and Visual Studio, Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based), Microsoft Exchange Server, Office, Windows Hyper-V, Windows Authentication Methods, BitLocker, Remote Desktop Client, and Windows Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol.

Also today, Adobe issued five security bulletins to address at least 18 flaws in Adobe CloudFusion, Framemaker, InCopy, InDesign, and Adobe Character Animator. Adobe said it is not aware of any exploits in the wild for any of the issues addressed in today’s updates.

For a more granular look at the patches released by Microsoft today and indexed by severity and other metrics, check out the always-useful Patch Tuesday roundup from the SANS Internet Storm Center. And it’s not a bad idea to hold off updating for a few days until Microsoft works out any kinks in the updates: AskWoody.com usually has the skinny on any patches that may be causing problems for Windows users.

As always, please consider backing up your system or at least your important documents and data before applying system updates. And if you run into any problems with these patches, please drop a note about it here in the comments.

DEA Investigating Breach of Law Enforcement Data Portal

12 May 2022 at 11:00

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says it is investigating reports that hackers gained unauthorized access to an agency portal that taps into 16 different federal law enforcement databases. KrebsOnSecurity has learned the alleged compromise is tied to a cybercrime and online harassment community that routinely impersonates police and government officials to harvest personal information on their targets.

Unidentified hackers shared this screenshot of alleged access to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s intelligence sharing portal.

On May 8, KrebsOnSecurity received a tip that hackers obtained a username and password for an authorized user of esp.usdoj.gov, which is the Law Enforcement Inquiry and Alerts (LEIA) system managed by the DEA.

KrebsOnSecurity shared information about the allegedly hijacked account with the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice, which houses both agencies. The DEA declined to comment on the validity of the claims, issuing only a brief statement in response.

“DEA takes cyber security and information of intrusions seriously and investigates all such reports to the fullest extent,” the agency said in a statement shared via email.

According to this page at the Justice Department website, LEIA “provides federated search capabilities for both EPIC and external database repositories,” including data classified as “law enforcement sensitive” and “mission sensitive” to the DEA.

A document published by the Obama administration in May 2016 (PDF) says the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) systems in Texas are available for use by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement, as well as the Department of Defense and intelligence community.

EPIC and LEIA also have access to the DEA’s National Seizure System (NSS), which the DEA uses to identify property thought to have been purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity (think fancy cars, boats and homes seized from drug kingpins).

“The EPIC System Portal (ESP) enables vetted users to remotely and securely share intelligence, access the National Seizure System, conduct data analytics, and obtain information in support of criminal investigations or law enforcement operations,” the 2016 White House document reads. “Law Enforcement Inquiry and Alerts (LEIA) allows for a federated search of 16 Federal law enforcement databases.”

The screenshots shared with this author indicate the hackers could use EPIC to look up a variety of records, including those for motor vehicles, boats, firearms, aircraft, and even drones.

Claims about the purloined DEA access were shared with this author by “KT,” the current administrator of the Doxbin — a highly toxic online community that provides a forum for digging up personal information on people and posting it publicly.

As KrebsOnSecurity reported earlier this year, the previous owner of the Doxbin has been identified as the leader of LAPSUS$, a data extortion group that hacked into some of the world’s largest tech companies this year — including Microsoft, NVIDIA, Okta, Samsung and T-Mobile.

That reporting also showed how the core members of LAPSUS$ were involved in selling a service offering fraudulent Emergency Data Requests (EDRs), wherein the hackers use compromised police and government email accounts to file warrantless data requests with social media firms, mobile telephony providers and other technology firms, attesting that the information being requested can’t wait for a warrant because it relates to an urgent matter of life and death.

From the standpoint of individuals involved in filing these phony EDRs, access to databases and user accounts within the Department of Justice would be a major coup. But the data in EPIC would probably be far more valuable to organized crime rings or drug cartels, said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher for the International Computer Science Institute at University of California, Berkeley.

Weaver said it’s clear from the screenshots shared by the hackers that they could use their access not only to view sensitive information, but also submit false records to law enforcement and intelligence agency databases.

“I don’t think these [people] realize what they got, how much money the cartels would pay for access to this,” Weaver said. “Especially because as a cartel you don’t search for yourself you search for your enemies, so that even if it’s discovered there is no loss to you of putting things ONTO the DEA’s radar.”

The DEA’s EPIC portal login page.

ANALYSIS

The login page for esp.usdoj.gov (above) suggests that authorized users can access the site using a “Personal Identity Verification” or PIV card, which is a fairly strong form of authentication used government-wide to control access to federal facilities and information systems at each user’s appropriate security level.

However, the EPIC portal also appears to accept just a username and password, which would seem to radically diminish the security value of requiring users to present (or prove possession of) an authorized PIV card. Indeed, KT said the hacker who obtained this illicit access was able to log in using the stolen credentials alone, and that at no time did the portal prompt for a second authentication factor.

It’s not clear why there are still sensitive government databases being protected by nothing more than a username and password, but I’m willing to bet big money that this DEA portal is not only offender here. The DEA portal esp.usdoj.gov is listed on Page 87 of a Justice Department “data inventory,” which catalogs all of the data repositories that correspond to DOJ agencies.

There are 3,330 results. Granted, only some of those results are login portals, but that’s just within the Department of Justice.

If we assume for the moment that state-sponsored foreign hacking groups can gain access to sensitive government intelligence in the same way as teenage hacker groups like LAPSUS$, then it is long past time for the U.S. federal government to perform a top-to-bottom review of authentication requirements tied to any government portals that traffic in sensitive or privileged information.

I’ll say it because it needs to be said: The United States government is in urgent need of leadership on cybersecurity at the executive branch level — preferably someone who has the authority and political will to eventually disconnect any federal government agency data portals that fail to enforce strong, multi-factor authentication.

I realize this may be far more complex than it sounds, particularly when it comes to authenticating law enforcement personnel who access these systems without the benefit of a PIV card or government-issued device (state and local authorities, for example). It’s not going to be as simple as just turning on multi-factor authentication for every user, thanks in part to a broad diversity of technologies being used across the law enforcement landscape.

But when hackers can plunder 16 law enforcement databases, arbitrarily send out law enforcement alerts for specific people or vehicles, or potentially disrupt ongoing law enforcement operations — all because someone stole, found or bought a username and password — it’s time for drastic measures.

When Your Smart ID Card Reader Comes With Malware

18 May 2022 at 01:07

Millions of U.S. government employees and contractors have been issued a secure smart ID card that enables physical access to buildings and controlled spaces, and provides access to government computer networks and systems at the cardholder’s appropriate security level. But many government employees aren’t issued an approved card reader device that lets them use these cards at home or remotely, and so turn to low-cost readers they find online. What could go wrong? Here’s one example.

A sample Common Access Card (CAC). Image: Cac.mil.

KrebsOnSecurity recently heard from a reader — we’ll call him “Mark” because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press — who works in IT for a major government defense contractor and was issued a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) government smart card designed for civilian employees. Not having a smart card reader at home and lacking any obvious guidance from his co-workers on how to get one, Mark opted to purchase a $15 reader from Amazon that said it was made to handle U.S. government smart cards.

The USB-based device Mark settled on is the first result that currently comes up one when searches on Amazon.com for “PIV card reader.” The card reader Mark bought was sold by a company called Saicoo, whose sponsored Amazon listing advertises a “DOD Military USB Common Access Card (CAC) Reader” and has more than 11,700 mostly positive ratings.

The Common Access Card (CAC) is the standard identification for active duty uniformed service personnel, selected reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. It is the principal card used to enable physical access to buildings and controlled spaces, and provides access to DoD computer networks and systems.

Mark said when he received the reader and plugged it into his Windows 10 PC, the operating system complained that the device’s hardware drivers weren’t functioning properly. Windows suggested consulting the vendor’s website for newer drivers.

The Saicoo smart card reader that Mark purchased. Image: Amazon.com

So Mark went to the website mentioned on Saicoo’s packaging and found a ZIP file containing drivers for Linux, Mac OS and Windows:

Image: Saicoo

Out of an abundance of caution, Mark submitted Saicoo’s drivers file to Virustotal.com, which simultaneously scans any shared files with more than five dozen antivirus and security products. Virustotal reported that some 43 different security tools detected the Saicoo drivers as malicious. The consensus seems to be that the ZIP file currently harbors a malware threat known as Ramnit, a fairly common but dangerous trojan horse that spreads by appending itself to other files.

Image: Virustotal.com

Ramnit is a well-known and older threat — first surfacing more than a decade ago — but it has evolved over the years and is still employed in more sophisticated data exfiltration attacks. Amazon said in a written statement that it was investigating the reports.

“Seems like a potentially significant national security risk, considering that many end users might have elevated clearance levels who are using PIV cards for secure access,” Mark said.

Mark said he contacted Saicoo about their website serving up malware, and received a response saying the company’s newest hardware did not require any additional drivers. He said Saicoo did not address his concern that the driver package on its website was bundled with malware.

In response to KrebsOnSecurity’s request for comment, Saicoo sent a somewhat less reassuring reply.

“From the details you offered, issue may probably caused by your computer security defense system as it seems not recognized our rarely used driver & detected it as malicious or a virus,” Saicoo’s support team wrote in an email.

“Actually, it’s not carrying any virus as you can trust us, if you have our reader on hand, please just ignore it and continue the installation steps,” the message continued. “When driver installed, this message will vanish out of sight. Don’t worry.”

Saicoo’s response to KrebsOnSecurity.

The trouble with Saicoo’s apparently infected drivers may be little more than a case of a technology company having their site hacked and responding poorly. Will Dormann, a vulnerability analyst at CERT/CC, wrote on Twitter that the executable files (.exe) in the Saicoo drivers ZIP file were not altered by the Ramnit malware — only the included HTML files.

Dormann said it’s bad enough that searching for device drivers online is one of the riskiest activities one can undertake online.

“Doing a web search for drivers is a VERY dangerous (in terms of legit/malicious hit ratio) search to perform, based on results of any time I’ve tried to do it,” Dormann added. “Combine that with the apparent due diligence of the vendor outlined here, and well, it ain’t a pretty picture.”

But by all accounts, the potential attack surface here is enormous, as many federal employees clearly will purchase these readers from a myriad of online vendors when the need arises. Saicoo’s product listings, for example, are replete with comments from customers who self-state that they work at a federal agency (and several who reported problems installing drivers).

A thread about Mark’s experience on Twitter generated a strong response from some of my followers, many of whom apparently work for the U.S. government in some capacity and have government-issued CAC or PIV cards.

Two things emerged clearly from that conversation. The first was general confusion about whether the U.S. government has any sort of list of approved vendors. It does. The General Services Administration (GSA), the agency which handles procurement for federal civilian agencies, maintains a list of approved card reader vendors at idmanagement.gov (Saicoo is not on that list). [Thanks to @MetaBiometrics and @shugenja for the link!]

The other theme that ran through the Twitter discussion was the reality that many people find buying off-the-shelf readers more expedient than going through the GSA’s official procurement process, whether it’s because they were never issued one or the reader they were using simply no longer worked or was lost and they needed another one quickly.

“Almost every officer and NCO [non-commissioned officer] I know in the Reserve Component has a CAC reader they bought because they had to get to their DOD email at home and they’ve never been issued a laptop or a CAC reader,” said David Dixon, an Army veteran and author who lives in Northern Virginia. “When your boss tells you to check your email at home and you’re in the National Guard and you live 2 hours from the nearest [non-classified military network installation], what do you think is going to happen?”

Interestingly, anyone asking on Twitter about how to navigate purchasing the right smart card reader and getting it all to work properly is invariably steered toward militarycac.com. The website is maintained by Michael Danberry, a decorated and retired Army veteran who launched the site in 2008 (its text and link-heavy design very much takes one back to that era of the Internet and webpages in general). His site has even been officially recommended by the Army (PDF). Mark shared emails showing Saicoo itself recommends militarycac.com.

Image: Militarycac.com.

“The Army Reserve started using CAC logon in May 2006,” Danberry wrote on his “About” page. “I [once again] became the ‘Go to guy’ for my Army Reserve Center and Minnesota. I thought Why stop there? I could use my website and knowledge of CAC and share it with you.”

Danberry did not respond to requests for an interview — no doubt because he’s busy doing tech support for the federal government. The friendly message on Danberry’s voicemail instructs support-needing callers to leave detailed information about the issue they’re having with CAC/PIV card readers.

Dixon said Danberry has “done more to keep the Army running and connected than all the G6s [Army Chief Information Officers] put together.”

In many ways, Mr. Danberry is the equivalent of that little known software developer whose tiny open-sourced code project ends up becoming widely adopted and eventually folded into the fabric of the Internet.  I wonder if he ever imagined 15 years ago that his website would one day become “critical infrastructure” for Uncle Sam?

Senators Urge FTC to Probe ID.me Over Selfie Data

18 May 2022 at 16:55

Some of more tech-savvy Democrats in the U.S. Senate are asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate identity-proofing company ID.me for “deceptive statements” the company and its founder allegedly made over how they handle facial recognition data collected on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service, which until recently required anyone seeking a new IRS account online to provide a live video selfie to ID.me.

In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, the Senators charge that ID.me’s CEO Blake Hall has offered conflicting statements about how his company uses the facial scan data it collects on behalf of the federal government and many states that use the ID proofing technology to screen applicants for unemployment insurance.

The lawmakers say that in public statements and blog posts, ID.me has frequently emphasized the difference between two types of facial recognition: One-to-one, and one-to-many. In the one-to-one approach, a live video selfie is compared to the image on a driver’s license, for example. One-to-many facial recognition involves comparing a face against a database of other faces to find any potential matches.

Americans have particular reason to be concerned about the difference between these two types of facial recognition, says the letter to the FTC, signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.):

“While one-to-one recognition involves a one-time comparison of two images in order to confirm an applicant’s identity, the use of one-to-many recognition means that millions of innocent people will have their photographs endlessly queried as part of a digital ‘line up.’ Not only does this violate individuals’ privacy, but the inevitable false matches associated with one-to-many recognition can result in applicants being wrongly denied desperately-needed services for weeks or even months as they try to get their case reviewed.”

“This risk is especially acute for people of color: NIST’s Facial Recognition Vendor Test found that many facial recognition algorithms have rates of false matches that are as much as 100 times higher for individuals from countries in West Africa, East Africa and East Asia than for individuals from Eastern European countries. This means Black and Asian Americans could be disproportionately likely to be denied benefits due to a false match in a one-to-many facial recognition system.”

The lawmakers say that throughout the latter half of 2021, ID.me published statements and blog posts stating it did not use one-to-many facial recognition and that the approach was “problematic” and “tied to surveillance operations.” But several days after a Jan. 16, 2022 post here about the IRS’s new facial ID requirement went viral and prompted a public backlash, Hall acknowledged in a LinkedIn posting that ID.me does use one-to-many facial recognition.

“Within days, the company edited the numerous blog posts and white papers on its website that previously stated the company did not use one-to-many to reflect the truth,” the letter alleges. “According to media reports, the company’s decision to correct its prior misleading statements came after mounting internal pressure from its employees.”

Cyberscoop’s Tonya Riley published excerpts from internal ID.me employee Slack messages wherein some expressed dread and unease with the company’s equivocation on its use of one-to-many facial recognition.

In February, the IRS announced it would no longer require facial scans or other biometric data from taxpayers seeking to create an account at the agency’s website. The agency also pledged that any biometric data shared with ID.me would be permanently deleted.

But the IRS still requires new account applicants to sign up with either ID.me or Login.gov, a single sign-on solution already used to access 200 websites run by 28 federal agencies. It also still offers the option of providing a live selfie for verification purposes, although the IRS says this data will be deleted automatically.

Asked to respond to concerns raised in the letter from Senate lawmakers, ID.me instead touted its successes in stopping fraud.

“Five state workforce agencies have publicly credited ID.me with helping to prevent $238 billion dollars in fraud,” the statement reads. “Conditions were so bad during the pandemic that the deputy assistant director of the FBI called the fraud ‘an economic attack on the United States.’ ID.me played a critical role in stopping that attack in more than 20 states where the service was rapidly adopted for its equally important ability to increase equity and verify individuals left behind by traditional options. We look forward to cooperating with all relevant government bodies to clear up any misunderstandings.”

As Cyberscoop reported on Apr. 14, the House Oversight and Reform Committee last month began an investigation into ID.me’s practices, with committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) saying the committee’s questions to the company would help shape policy on how the government wields facial recognition technology.

A copy of the letter the senators sent to the FTC is here (PDF).

Costa Rica May Be Pawn in Conti Ransomware Group’s Bid to Rebrand, Evade Sanctions

31 May 2022 at 19:57

Costa Rica’s national health service was hacked sometime earlier this morning by a Russian ransomware group known as Hive. The intrusion comes just weeks after Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves declared a state of emergency in response to a data ransom attack from a different Russian ransomware gang — Conti. Ransomware experts say there is good reason to believe the same cybercriminals are behind both attacks, and that Hive has been helping Conti rebrand and evade international sanctions targeting extortion payouts to cybercriminals operating in Russia.

The Costa Rican publication CRprensa.com reports that affected systems at the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) were taken offline on the morning of May 31, but that the extent of the breach was still unclear. The CCSS is responsible for Costa Rica’s public health sector, and worker and employer contributions are mandated by law.

A hand-written sign posted outside a public health center in Costa Rica today explained that all systems are down until further notice (thanks to @Xyb3rb3nd3r for sharing this photo).

A hand-written notice posted outside a public health clinic today in Costa Rica warned of system outages due to a cyberattack on the nation’s healthcare systems. The message reads: “Dear Users: We would like to inform you that due a problem related to the information systems of the institution, we are unable to expend any medicine prescriptions today until further notice. Thank you for your understanding- The pharmacy.”

Esteban Jimenez, founder of the Costa Rican cybersecurity consultancy ATTI Cyber, told KrebsOnSecurity the CCSS suffered a cyber attack that compromised the Unique Digital Medical File (EDUS) and the National Prescriptions System for the public pharmacies, and as a result medical centers have turned to paper forms and manual contingencies.

“Many smaller health centers located in rural areas have been forced to close due to not having the required equipment or communication with their respective central health areas and the National Retirement Fund (IVM) was completely blocked,” Jimenez said. “Taking into account that salaries of around fifty thousand employees and deposits for retired citizens were due today, so now the payments are in danger.”

Jimenez said the head of the CCSS has addressed the local media, confirming that the Hive ransomware was deployed on at least 30 out of 1,500 government servers, and that any estimation of time to recovery remains unknown. He added that many printers within the government agency this morning began churning out copies of the Hive ransom note.

Printers at the Costa Rican government health ministry went crazy this morning after the Hive ransomware group attacked. Image: Esteban Jimenez.

“HIVE has not yet released their ransom fee but attacks are expected to follow, other organizations are trying to get a hold on the emergency declaration to obtain additional funds to purchase new pieces of infrastructure, improve their backup structure amongst others,” Jimenez said.

A copy of the ransom note left behind by the intruders and subsequently uploaded to Virustotal.com indicates the CCSS intrusion was the work of Hive, which typically demands payment for a digital key needed to unlock files and servers compromised by the group’s ransomware.

A HIVE ransomware chat page for a specific victim (redacted).

On May 8, President Chaves used his first day in office to declare a national state of emergency after the Conti ransomware group threatened to publish gigabytes of sensitive data stolen from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance and other government agencies. Conti initially demanded $10 million, and later doubled the amount when Costa Rica refused to pay. On May 20, Conti leaked more than 670 gigabytes of data taken from Costa Rican government servers.

As CyberScoop reported on May 17, Chaves told local media he believed that collaborators within Costa Rica were helping Conti extort the government. Chaves offered no information to support this claim, but the timeline of Conti’s descent on Costa Rica is worth examining.

Most of Conti’s public communications about the Costa Rica attack have very clearly assigned credit for the intrusion to an individual or group calling itself “unc1756.” In March 2022, a new user by the same name registered on the Russian language crime forum Exploit.

A message Conti posted to its dark web blog on May 20.

On the evening of April 18, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance disclosed the Conti intrusion via Twitter. Earlier that same day, the user unc1756 posted a help wanted ad on Exploit saying they were looking to buy access to “special networks” in Costa Rica.

“By special networks I mean something like Haciendas,” unc1756 wrote on Exploit. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance is known in Spanish as the “Ministerio Hacienda de Costa Rica.” Unc1756 said they would pay $USD 500 or more for such access, and would work only with Russian-speaking people.

THE NAME GAME DISTRACTION

Experts say there are clues to suggest Conti and Hive are working together in their attacks on Costa Rica, and that the intrusions are tied to a rebranding effort by Conti. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, Conti declared its full support, aligning itself directly with Russia and against anyone who would stand against the motherland.

Conti’s threatening message this week regarding international interference in Ukraine.

Conti quickly deleted the declaration from its website, but the damage had already been done, and any favor or esteem that Conti had earned among the Ukrainian cybercriminal underground effectively evaporated overnight.

Shortly thereafter, a Ukrainian security expert leaked many months worth of internal chat records between Conti personnel as they plotted and executed attacks against hundreds of victim organizations. Those candid messages exposed what it’s like to work for Conti, how they undermined the security of their targets, as well as how the group’s leaders strategized for the upper hand in ransom negotiations.

But Conti’s declaration of solidarity with the Kremlin also made it increasingly ineffective as an instrument of financial extortion. According to cyber intelligence firm ADVIntel, Conti’s alliance with the Russian state soon left it largely unable to receive ransom payments because victim companies are being advised that paying a Conti ransom demand could mean violating U.S. economic sanctions on Russia.

“Conti as a brand became associated with the Russian state — a state that is currently undergoing extreme sanctions,” ADVIntel wrote in a lengthy analysis (PDF). “In the eyes of the state, each ransom payment going to Conti may have potentially gone to an individual under sanction, turning simple data extortion into a violation of OFAC regulation and sanction policies against Russia.”

Conti is by far the most aggressive and profitable ransomware group in operation today. Image: Chainalysis

ADVIntel says it first learned of Conti’s intrusion into Costa Rican government systems on April 14, and that it has seen internal Conti communications indicating that getting paid in the Costa Rica attack was not the goal.

Rather, ADVIntel argues, Conti was simply using it as a way to appear publicly that it was still operating as the world’s most lucrative ransomware collective, when in reality the core Conti leadership was busy dismantling the crime group and folding themselves and top affiliates into other ransomware groups that are already on friendly terms with Conti.

“The only goal Conti had wanted to meet with this final attack was to use the platform as a tool of publicity, performing their own death and subsequent rebirth in the most plausible way it could have been conceived,” ADVIntel concluded.

ADVIntel says Conti’s leaders and core affiliates are dispersing to several Conti-loyal crime collectives that use either ransomware lockers or strictly engage in data theft for ransom, including AlphV/BlackCat, AvosLocker, BlackByte, HelloKitty, Hive, and Karakurt.

Still, Hive appears to be perhaps the biggest beneficiary of any attrition from Conti: Twice over the past week, both Conti and Hive claimed responsibility for hacking the same companies. When the discrepancy was called out on Twitter, Hive updated its website to claim it was not affiliated with Conti.

Conti and Hive’s Costa Rican exploits mark the latest in a string of recent cyberattacks against government targets across Latin America. Around the same time it hacked Costa Rica in April, Conti announced it had hacked Peru’s National Directorate of Intelligence, threatening to publish sensitive stolen data if the government did not pay a ransom.

But Conti and Hive are not alone in targeting Latin American victims of late. According to data gathered from the victim shaming blogs maintained by multiple ransomware groups, over the past 90 days ransom actors have hacked and sought to extort 15 government agencies in Brazil, nine in Argentina, six in Colombia, four in Ecuador and three in Chile.

A recent report (PDF) by the Inter-American Development Bank suggests many Latin American countries lack the technical expertise or cybercrime laws to deal with today’s threats and threat actors.

“This study shows that the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region is not sufficiently prepared to handle cyberattacks,” the IADB document explains. “Only 7 of the 32 countries studied have a critical infrastructure protection plan, while 20 have established cybersecurity incident response teams, often called CERTs or CSIRTs. This limits their ability to identify and respond to attacks.”

What Counts as “Good Faith Security Research?”

3 June 2022 at 19:33

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently revised its policy on charging violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 1986 law that remains the primary statute by which federal prosecutors pursue cybercrime cases. The new guidelines state that prosecutors should avoid charging security researchers who operate in “good faith” when finding and reporting vulnerabilities. But legal experts continue to advise researchers to proceed with caution, noting the new guidelines can’t be used as a defense in court, nor are they any kind of shield against civil prosecution.

In a statement about the changes, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said the DOJ “has never been interested in prosecuting good-faith computer security research as a crime,” and that the new guidelines “promote cybersecurity by providing clarity for good-faith security researchers who root out vulnerabilities for the common good.”

What constitutes “good faith security research?” The DOJ’s new policy (PDF) borrows language from a Library of Congress rulemaking (PDF) on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a similarly controversial law that criminalizes production and dissemination of technologies or services designed to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. According to the government, good faith security research means:

“…accessing a computer solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability, where such activity is carried out in a manner designed to avoid any harm to individuals or the public, and where the information derived from the activity is used primarily to promote the security or safety of the class of devices, machines, or online services to which the accessed computer belongs, or those who use such devices, machines, or online services.”

“Security research not conducted in good faith — for example, for the purpose of discovering security holes in devices, machines, or services in order to extort the owners of such devices, machines, or services — might be called ‘research,’ but is not in good faith.”

The new DOJ policy comes in response to a Supreme Court ruling last year in Van Buren v. United States (PDF), a case involving a former police sergeant in Florida who was convicted of CFAA violations after a friend paid him to use police resources to look up information on a private citizen.

But in an opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court held that the CFAA does not apply to a person who obtains electronic information that they are otherwise authorized to access and then misuses that information.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, said the DOJ’s updated policy was expected given the Supreme Court ruling in the Van Buren case. Kerr noted that while the new policy says one measure of “good faith” involves researchers taking steps to prevent harm to third parties, what exactly those steps might constitute is another matter.

“The DOJ is making clear they’re not going to prosecute good faith security researchers, but be really careful before you rely on that,” Kerr said. “First, because you could still get sued [civilly, by the party to whom the vulnerability is being reported], but also the line as to what is legitimate security research and what isn’t is still murky.”

Kerr said the new policy also gives CFAA defendants no additional cause for action.

“A lawyer for the defendant can make the pitch that something is good faith security research, but it’s not enforceable,” Kerr said. “Meaning, if the DOJ does bring a CFAA charge, the defendant can’t move to dismiss it on the grounds that it’s good faith security research.”

Kerr added that he can’t think of a CFAA case where this policy would have made a substantive difference.

“I don’t think the DOJ is giving up much, but there’s a lot of hacking that could be covered under good faith security research that they’re saying they won’t prosecute, and it will be interesting to see what happens there,” he said.

The new policy also clarifies other types of potential CFAA violations that are not to be charged. Most of these include violations of a technology provider’s terms of service, and here the DOJ says “violating an access restriction contained in a term of service are not themselves sufficient to warrant federal criminal charges.” Some examples include:

-Embellishing an online dating profile contrary to the terms of service of the dating website;
-Creating fictional accounts on hiring, housing, or rental websites;
-Using a pseudonym on a social networking site that prohibits them;
-Checking sports scores or paying bills at work.

ANALYSIS

Kerr’s warning about the dangers that security researchers face from civil prosecution is well-founded. KrebsOnSecurity regularly hears from security researchers seeking advice on how to handle reporting a security vulnerability or data exposure. In most of these cases, the researcher isn’t worried that the government is going to come after them: It’s that they’re going to get sued by the company responsible for the security vulnerability or data leak.

Often these conversations center around the researcher’s desire to weigh the rewards of gaining recognition for their discoveries with the risk of being targeted with costly civil lawsuits. And almost just as often, the source of the researcher’s unease is that they recognize they might have taken their discovery just a tad too far.

Here’s a common example: A researcher finds a vulnerability in a website that allows them to individually retrieve every customer record in a database. But instead of simply polling a few records that could be used as a proof-of-concept and shared with the vulnerable website, the researcher decides to download every single file on the server.

Not infrequently, there is also concern because at some point the researcher suspected that their automated activities might have actually caused stability or uptime issues with certain services they were testing. Here, the researcher is usually concerned about approaching the vulnerable website or vendor because they worry their activities may already have been identified internally as some sort of external cyberattack.

What do I take away from these conversations? Some of the most trusted and feared security researchers in the industry today gained that esteem not by constantly taking things to extremes and skirting the law, but rather by publicly exercising restraint in the use of their powers and knowledge — and by being effective at communicating their findings in a way that maximizes the help and minimizes the potential harm.

If you believe you’ve discovered a security vulnerability or data exposure, try to consider first how you might defend your actions to the vulnerable website or vendor before embarking on any automated or semi-automated activity that the organization might reasonably misconstrue as a cyberattack. In other words, try as best you can to minimize the potential harm to the vulnerable site or vendor in question, and don’t go further than you need to prove your point.

KrebsOnSecurity in New Netflix Series on Cybercrime

7 June 2022 at 14:58

Netflix has a new documentary series airing next week — “Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies & the Internet” — in which Yours Truly apparently has a decent amount of screen time. The debut episode explores the far-too-common harassment tactic of “swatting” — wherein fake bomb threats or hostage situations are phoned in to police as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly force on a target’s address.

Image: Netflix.com

The producers of the Netflix show said footage from an interview I sat for in early 2020 on swatting and other threats should appear in the first episode. They didn’t specify what additional topics the series would scrutinize, but Netflix’s teaser for the show suggests it concerns cybercrimes that result in deadly, real-world kinetic attacks.

“Conspiracy. Fraud. Violence. Murder,” reads the Netflix short description for the series. “What starts out virtual can get real all too quickly — and when the web is worldwide, so are the consequences.”

Our family has been victimized by multiple swatting attacks over the past decade. Our first swatting, in March 2013, resulted in Fairfax County, Va. police surrounding our home and forcing me into handcuffs at gunpoint. For an excruciating two minutes, I had multiple police officers pointing rifles, shotguns and pistols directly at me.

More recently, our family was subjected to swatting attacks by a neo-Nazi group that targeted journalists, judges and corporate executives. We’ve been fortunate that none of our swatting events ended in physical harm, and that our assailants have all faced justice.

But these dangerous hoaxes can quickly turn deadly: In March 2019, 26-year-old serial swatter Tyler Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making a phony emergency call to police in late 2017 that resulted in the shooting death of an innocent Kansas resident.

In 2021, an 18-year-old Tennessee man who helped set in motion a fraudulent distress call to police that led to the death of a 60-year-old grandfather in was sentenced to five years in prison.

The first season of the new documentary series will be available on Netflix starting June 15. See you on TV!

Adconion Execs Plead Guilty in Federal Anti-Spam Case

11 June 2022 at 00:04

At the outset of their federal criminal trial for hijacking vast swaths of Internet addresses for use in large-scale email spam campaigns, three current or former executives at online advertising firm Adconion Direct (now Amobee) have pleaded guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges of fraud and misrepresentation via email.

In October 2018, prosecutors in the Southern District of California named four Adconion employees — Jacob BychakMark ManoogianPetr Pacas, and Mohammed Abdul Qayyum —  in a ten-count indictment (PDF) on felony charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and electronic mail fraud.

The government alleged that between December 2010 and September 2014, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to identify or pay to identify blocks of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that were registered to others but which were otherwise inactive.

Prosecutors said the men also sent forged letters to an Internet hosting firm claiming they had been authorized by the registrants of the inactive IP addresses to use that space for their own purposes.

All four defendants pleaded not guilty when they were charged back in 2018, but this week Bychak, Manoogian and Qayyum each entered a plea deal.

“The defendants’ jobs with Adconion were to acquire fresh IP addresses and employ other measures to circumvent the spam filters,” reads a statement released today by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, which said the defendants would pay $100,000 in fines each and perform 100 hours of community service.

“To conceal Adconion’s ties to the stolen IP addresses and the spam sent from these IP addresses, the defendants used a host of DBAs, virtual addresses, and fake names provided by the company,” the statement continues. “While defendants touted ties to well-known name brands, the email marketing campaigns associated with the hijacked IP addresses included advertisements such as ‘BigBeautifulWomen,’ ‘iPhone4S Promos,’ and ‘LatinLove[Cost-per-Click].'”

None of the three plea agreements are currently available on PACER, the online federal court document clearinghouse. However, PACER does show that on June 7 — the same day the pleas were entered by the defendants —  the government submitted to the court a superseding set of just two misdemeanor charges (PDF) of fraud in connection with email.

Another document filed in the case says the fourth defendant — Pacas — accepted a deferred prosecution deal, which includes a probationary period and a required $50,000 “donation” to a federal “crime victims fund.”

There are fewer than four billion so-called “Internet Protocol version 4” or IPv4 addresses available for use, but the vast majority of them have already been allocated. The global dearth of available IP addresses has turned them into a commodity wherein each IP can fetch between $15-$25 on the open market.

This has led to boom times for those engaged in the acquisition and sale of IP address blocks, but it has likewise emboldened those who specialize in absconding with and spamming from dormant IP address blocks without permission from the rightful owners.

In May, prosecutors published information about the source of some IP address ranges from which the Adconion employees allegedly spammed. For example, the government found the men leased some of their IP address ranges from a Dutch company that’s been tied to a scandal involving more than four million addresses siphoned from the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the nonprofit responsible for overseeing IP address allocation for African organizations.

In 2019, AFRINIC fired a top employee after it emerged that in 2013 he quietly commandeered millions of IPs from defunct African entities or from those that were long ago acquired by other firms, and then conspired to sell an estimated $50 million worth of the IPs to marketers based outside Africa.

“Exhibit A” in a recent government court filing shows that in 2013 Adconion leased more than 65,000 IP addresses from Inspiring Networks, a Dutch network services company. In 2020, Inspiring Networks and its director Maikel Uerlings were named in a dogged, multi-part investigation by South African news outlet MyBroadband.co.za and researcher Ron Guilmette as one of two major beneficiaries of the four million IP addresses looted from AFRINIC by its former employee.

Exhibit A, from a May 2022 filing by U.S. federal prosecutors.

The address block in the above image — 196.246.0.0/16 — was reportedly later reclaimed by AFRINIC following an investigation. Inspiring Networks has not responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors allege the Adconion employees also obtained hijacked IP address blocks from Daniel Dye, another man tied to this case who was charged separately. For many years, Dye was a system administrator for Optinrealbig, a Colorado company that relentlessly pimped all manner of junk email, from mortgage leads and adult-related services to counterfeit products and Viagra. In 2018, Dye pleaded guilty to violations of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Optinrealbig’s CEO was the spam king Scott Richter, who changed the name of the company to Media Breakaway after being successfully sued for spamming by AOL, MicrosoftMySpace, and the New York Attorney General Office, among others. In 2008, this author penned a column for The Washington Post detailing how Media Breakaway had hijacked tens of thousands of IP addresses from a defunct San Francisco company for use in its spamming operations.

The last-minute plea deals by the Adconion employees were reminiscent of another recent federal criminal prosecution for IP address sleight-of-hand. In November 2021, the CEO of South Carolina technology firm Micfo pleaded guilty just two days into his trial, admitting 20 counts of wire fraud in connection with an elaborate network of phony companies set up to obtain more than 700,000 IPs from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) — AFRINIC’s counterpart in North America.

Adconion was acquired in June 2014 by Amobee, a Redwood City, Calif. online ad platform that has catered to some of the world’s biggest brands. Amobee’s parent firm — Singapore-based communications giant Singtel — bought Amobee for $321 million in March 2012.

But as Reuters reported in 2021, Amobee cost Singtel nearly twice as much in the last year alone — $589 million — in a “non-cash impairment charge” Singtel disclosed to investors. Marketing industry blog Digiday.com reported in February that Singtel was seeking to part ways with its ad tech subsidiary.

One final note about Amobee: In response to my 2019 story on the criminal charges against the Adconion executives, Amobee issued a statement saying “Amobee has fully cooperated with the government’s investigation of this 2017 matter which pertains to alleged activities that occurred years prior to Amobee’s acquisition of the company.”

Yet as the government’s indictment points out, the alleged hijacking activities took place up until September 2014, which was after Amobee’s acquisition of Adconion Direct in June 2014. Also, the IP address ranges that the Adconion executives were prosecuted for hijacking were all related to incidents in 2013 and 2014, which is hardly “years prior to Amobee’s acquisition of the company.”

Amobee has not yet responded to requests for comment.

“Downthem” DDoS-for-Hire Boss Gets 2 Years in Prison

14 June 2022 at 00:09

A 33-year-old Illinois man was sentenced to two years in prison today following his conviction last year for operating services that allowed paying customers to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against hundreds of thousands of Internet users and websites.

The user interface for Downthem[.]org.

Matthew Gatrel of St. Charles, Ill. was found guilty for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) related to his operation of downthem[.]org and ampnode[.]com, two DDoS-for-hire services that had thousands of customers who paid to launch more than 200,000 attacks.

Despite admitting to FBI agents that he ran these so-called “booter” services (and turning over plenty of incriminating evidence in the process), Gatrel opted to take his case to trial, defended the entire time by public defenders. Gatrel’s co-defendant and partner in the business, Juan “Severon” Martinez of Pasadena, Calif., pleaded guilty just before the trial.

After a nine-day trial in the Central District of California, Gatrel was convicted on all three counts, including conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.

Prosecutors said Downthem sold subscriptions allowing customers to launch DDoS attacks, while AmpNode provided “bulletproof” server hosting to customers — with an emphasis on “spoofing” servers that could be pre-configured with DDoS attack scripts and lists of vulnerable “attack amplifiers” used to launch simultaneous cyberattacks on victims.

Booter and stresser services let customers pick from among a variety of attack methods, but almost universally the most powerful of these methods involves what’s known as a “reflective amplification attack.” In such assaults, the perpetrators leverage unmanaged Domain Name Servers (DNS) or other devices on the Web to create huge traffic floods.

Ideally, DNS servers only provide services to machines within a trusted domain — such as translating an Internet address from a series of numbers into a domain name, like example.com. But DNS reflection attacks rely on consumer and business routers and other devices equipped with DNS servers that are (mis)configured to accept queries from anywhere on the Web.

Attackers can send spoofed DNS queries to these DNS servers, forging the request so that it appears to come from the target’s network. That way, when the DNS servers respond, they reply to the spoofed (target) address.

The bad guys also can amplify a reflective attack by crafting DNS queries so that the responses are much bigger than the requests. For example, an attacker could compose a DNS request of less than 100 bytes, prompting a response that is 60-70 times as large. This “amplification” effect is especially pronounced if the perpetrators query dozens of DNS servers with these spoofed requests simultaneously.

The government charged that Gatrel and Martinez constantly scanned the Internet for these misconfigured devices, and then sold lists of Internet addresses tied to these devices to other booter service operators.

“Gatrel ran a criminal enterprise designed around launching hundreds of thousands of cyber-attacks on behalf of hundreds of customers,” prosecutors wrote in a memorandum submitted in advance of his sentencing. “He also provided infrastructure and resources for other cybercriminals to run their own businesses launching these same kinds of attacks. These attacks victimized wide swaths of American society and compromised computers around the world.”

The U.S. and United Kingdom have been trying to impress on would-be customers of these booter services that hiring them for DDoS attacks is illegal. The U.K. has even taken out Google ads to remind U.K. residents when they search online for terms common to booter services.

The case against Gatrel and Martinez was brought as part of a widespread crackdown on booter services in 2018, when the FBI joined law enforcement partners overseas to seize 15 different booter service domains.

Those actions have prompted a flurry of prosecutions, with wildly varying sentences when the booter service owners are invariably found guilty. However, DDoS experts say booter and stresser services that remain in operation continue to account for the vast majority of DDoS attacks launched daily around the globe.

Ransomware Group Debuts Searchable Victim Data

14 June 2022 at 19:53

Cybercrime groups that specialize in stealing corporate data and demanding a ransom not to publish it have tried countless approaches to shaming their victims into paying. The latest innovation in ratcheting up the heat comes from the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group, which has traditionally published any stolen victim data on the Dark Web. Today, however, the group began publishing individual victim websites on the public Internet, with the leaked data made available in an easily searchable form.

The ALPHV site claims to care about people’s privacy, but they let anyone view the sensitive stolen data.

ALPHV recently announced on its victim shaming and extortion website that it had hacked a luxury spa and resort in the western United States. Sometime in the last 24 hours, ALPHV published a website with the same victim’s name in the domain, and their logo on the homepage.

The website claims to list the personal information of 1,500 resort employees, and more than 2,500 residents at the facility. At the top of the page are two “Check Yourself” buttons, one for employees, and another for guests.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst with security firm Emsisoft, called the move by ALPHV “a cunning tactic” that will most certainly worry their other victims.

Callow said most of the victim shaming blogs maintained by the major ransomware and data ransom groups exist on obscure, slow-loading sites on the Darknet, reachable only through the use of third-party software like Tor. But the website erected by ALPHV as part of this new pressure tactic is available on the open Internet.

“Companies will likely be more concerned about the prospect of their data being shared in this way than of simply being posted to an obscure Tor site for which barely anyone knows the URL,” Callow said. “It’ll piss people off and make class actions more likely.”

It’s unclear if ALPHV plans to pursue this approach with every victim, but other recent victims of the crime group include a school district and a U.S. city. Most likely, this is a test run to see if it improves results.

“We are not going to stop, our leak distribution department will do their best to bury your business,” the victim website reads. “At this point, you still have a chance to keep your hotel’s security and reputation. We strongly advise you to be proactive in your negotiations; you do not have much time.”

Emerging in November 2021, ALPHV is perhaps most notable for its programming language (it is written in Rust). ALPHV has been actively recruiting operators from several ransomware organizations — including REvilBlackMatter and DarkSide — offering affiliates up to 90 percent of any ransom paid by a victim organization.

Many security experts believe ALPHV/BlackCat is simply a rebrand of another ransomware group — “Darkside” a.k.a. “BlackMatter,” the same gang responsible for the 2021 attack on Colonial Pipeline that caused fuel shortages and price spikes for several days last summer.

Callow said there may be an upside to this ALPHV innovation, noting that his wife recently heard directly from a different ransomware group — Cl0p.

“On a positive note, stunts like this mean people may actually find out that their PI has been compromised,” he said. “Cl0p emailed my wife last year. The company that lost her data still hasn’t made any public disclosure or notified the people who were impacted (at least, she hasn’t heard from the company.)”

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, June 2022 Edition

15 June 2022 at 04:52

Microsoft on Tuesday released software updates to fix 60 security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and other software, including a zero-day flaw in all supported Microsoft Office versions on all flavors of Windows that’s seen active exploitation for at least two months now. On a lighter note, Microsoft is officially retiring its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser, which turns 27 years old this year.

Three of the bugs tackled this month earned Microsoft’s most dire “critical” label, meaning they can be exploited remotely by malware or miscreants to seize complete control over a vulnerable system. On top of the critical heap this month is CVE-2022-30190, a vulnerability in the Microsoft Support Diagnostics Tool (MSDT), a service built into Windows.

Dubbed “Follina,” the flaw became public knowledge on May 27, when a security researcher tweeted about a malicious Word document that had surprisingly low detection rates by antivirus products. Researchers soon learned that the malicious document was using a feature in Word to retrieve a HTML file from a remote server, and that HTML file in turn used MSDT to load code and execute PowerShell commands.

“What makes this new MS Word vulnerability unique is the fact that there are no macros exploited in this attack,” writes Mayuresh Dani, manager of threat research at Qualys. “Most malicious Word documents leverage the macro feature of the software to deliver their malicious payload. As a result, normal macro-based scanning methods will not work to detect Follina. All an attacker needs to do is lure a targeted user to download a Microsoft document or view an HTML file embedded with the malicious code.”

Kevin Beaumont, the researcher who gave Follina its name, penned a fairly damning account and timeline of Microsoft’s response to being alerted about the weakness. Beaumont says researchers in March 2021 told Microsoft they were able achieve the same exploit using Microsoft Teams as an example, and that Microsoft silently fixed the issue in Teams but did not patch MSDT in Windows or the attack vector in Microsoft Office.

Beaumont said other researchers on April 12, 2022 told Microsoft about active exploitation of the MSDT flaw, but Microsoft closed the ticket saying it wasn’t a security issue. Microsoft finally issued a CVE for the problem on May 30, the same day it released recommendations on how to mitigate the threat from the vulnerability.

Microsoft also is taking flak from security experts regarding a different set of flaws in its Azure cloud hosting platform. Orca Security said that back on January 4 it told Microsoft about a critical bug in Azure’s Synapse service that allowed attackers to obtain credentials to other workspaces, execute code, or leak customer credentials to data sources outside of Azure.

In an update to their research published Tuesday, Orca researchers said they were able to bypass Microsoft’s fix for the issue twice before the company put a working fix in place.

“In previous cases, vulnerabilities were fixed by the cloud providers within a few days of our disclosure to the affected vendor,” wrote Orca’s Avi Shua. “Based on our understanding of the architecture of the service, and our repeated bypasses of fixes, we think that the architecture contains underlying weaknesses that should be addressed with a more robust tenant separation mechanism. Until a better solution is implemented, we advise that all customers assess their usage of the service and refrain from storing sensitive data or keys in it.”

Amit Yoran, CEO of Tenable and a former U.S. cybersecurity czar, took Microsoft to task for silently patching an issue Tenable reported in the same Azure Synapse service.

“It was only after being told that we were going to go public, that their story changed…89 days after the initial vulnerability notification…when they privately acknowledged the severity of the security issue,” Yoran wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “To date, Microsoft customers have not been notified. Without timely and detailed disclosures, customers have no idea if they were, or are, vulnerable to attack…or if they fell victim to attack prior to a vulnerability being patched. And not notifying customers denies them the opportunity to look for evidence that they were or were not compromised, a grossly irresponsible policy.”

Also in the critical and notable stack this month is CVE-2022-30136, which is a remote code execution flaw in the Windows Network File System (NFS version 4.1) that earned a CVSS score of 9.8 (10 being the worst). Microsoft issued a very similar patch last month for vulnerabilities in NFS versions 2 and 3.

“This vulnerability could allow a remote attacker to execute privileged code on affected systems running NFS. On the surface, the only difference between the patches is that this month’s update fixes a bug in NFSV4.1, whereas last month’s bug only affected versions NSFV2.0 and NSFV3.0,” wrote Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “It’s not clear if this is a variant or a failed patch or a completely new issue. Regardless, enterprises running NFS should prioritize testing and deploying this fix.”

Beginning today, Microsoft will officially stop supporting most versions of its Internet Explorer Web browser, which was launched in August 1995. The IE desktop application will be disabled, and Windows users who wish to stick with a Microsoft browser are encouraged to move to Microsoft Edge with IE mode, which will be supported through at least 2029.

For a closer look at the patches released by Microsoft today and indexed by severity and other metrics, check out the always-useful Patch Tuesday roundup from the SANS Internet Storm Center. And it’s not a bad idea to hold off updating for a few days until Microsoft works out any kinks in the updates: AskWoody.com usually has the dirt on any patches that may be causing problems for Windows users.

As always, please consider backing up your system or at least your important documents and data before applying system updates. And if you run into any problems with these updates, please drop a note about it here in the comments.

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